A recent analysis by Global Witness has uncovered that the fossil fuel companies committed to decarbonization at last year’s 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) are on a trajectory to consume around 62% of the allowable carbon dioxide emissions to keep global temperatures from rising beyond 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. This analysis brings to light the stark contrast between the industry’s public commitments and their actual plans, raising serious questions about the integrity of these pledges.
At the heart of this controversy is the Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter, introduced at COP28 by Saudi Arabia and Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber of the United Arab Emirates. The charter was celebrated as a significant step toward net-zero emissions by 2050, with over 50 companies, representing more than 40% of global oil production, signing on. Despite these commitments, a critical loophole has been identified that excludes scope 3 emissions—those resulting from the end use of oil and gas products, which account for up to 90% of the industry’s total carbon footprint.
The findings from Global Witness, utilizing data from Rystad Energy, indicate that the signatories plan to produce an enormous quantity of fossil fuels by 2050, resulting in the emission of over 150 billion metric tons of CO2. This figure starkly contrasts with the global carbon budget, the maximum amount of carbon dioxide humans can emit to avoid catastrophic climate change impacts.
Jamie Peters, a climate coordinator at Friends of the Earth, expressed her alarm at the findings, stating, “This analysis only reinforces what we’ve long known—that fossil fuel companies will stop at nothing to extract every last drop of profit from the world’s remaining fossil reserves, no matter the cost.”
The reaction to the ICJ’s findings has been polarized, with Palestinian journalist Bisan Owda expressing disappointment over the continued violence in Gaza, and South African officials acknowledging the ruling’s significance for international law. Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, have sharply criticized the decision, with Ben-Gvir’s dismissive “Hague shmague” remark on social media encapsulating the sentiment.
The ICJ’s directives include preventing actions that could lead to genocide, facilitating humanitarian aid in Gaza, protecting relevant evidence, and stopping incitement to genocide. The ruling highlights the urgent need for humanitarian assistance in Gaza, directing Israel to ensure the provision of basic services to Gazans.
The enforcement of the ICJ’s ruling presents significant challenges, given historical instances of countries ignoring the court’s directives. The potential for Israel to disregard the orders raises concerns about the effectiveness of international judicial decisions in influencing state behavior.
The ruling has immediate implications for the Israel-Palestine conflict and could influence future international relations. Despite the ICJ’s legal authority, the practical impact of its decisions hinges on global commitment to upholding international law.
Beth Miller, the political director at Jewish Voice for Peace, commented on the ruling’s importance, stating, “Now, the highest court in the world has found these claims plausible. President Biden has a choice to make: He can reject the entire system of international law and continue complicity in Israeli genocide, or he can stop arming a genocidal regime and stop attacking the people and movements struggling to build a more just and peaceful future.”